Island Sushi rundown plus social media talk in Vegas Seven

This week in my Green Felt Journal column I talk a little about the role of food in marketing a casino, the future of Downtown, and how the Plaza’s going to fare by looking at Terence Fong’s Island Sushi. From Vegas Seven:

In that light, recruiting chef Terence Fong, owner of Henderson’s Island Sushi and Hawaiian Grill, to open a branch of his popular Eastern Avenue eatery in the Plaza was a masterstroke for two reasons. First, Fong is a casino veteran who spent years at Caesars Palace and with Wolfgang Puck; he worked in some of the city’s most historic restaurants (Bacchanal, Andre’s) before leaving the Strip to spend more time with his family and, ultimately, to pour his energy into Island Sushi. He knows how to run a casino eatery.

via In the Dining Business, the Plaza Plays Smart | Vegas Seven.

I first tried the Plaza Island over a lunch meeting with a trio of high-powered Plaza marketing executives. Got the chicken katsu. Was very impressed. Would have gladly paid for it had one of the execs not had the Power of the Pencil. While I’d been thinking about doing a piece on Fong, I’ve got to admit that the quality of the food made it a “hey, I want to write about this next week” as opposed to, “this might be a good idea for an article someday” piece. In a later interview, I found Fong to be passionate and deeply knowledgeable. I don’t usually do “food” writing, and I wouldn’t call this food writing since I’m more looking at the role of the restaurant in the Plaza (and Downtown’s) rebirth as opposed to comparing it to other sushi places.

I thought highly enough of Island to check out the Eastern location, where I had great sushi and some of the best-tasting seaweed salad I’ve had in a long time. It put the stuff they serve at the Wynn buffet to shame, at the very least. I paid my own check, so this is not a sponsored conversation.

Speaking of which, I also took a look at the Cosmopolitan’s social media strategy at the prompting of a Vegas Seven editor. I struggled to articulate just how I felt about it. While the piece, part of the new media section, isn’t available in its own html page just yet, you can check it out in the digital edition right here.

Find DT’s hidden casino in Vegas Seven

Here’s a Vegas Seven story I had a lot of fun writing, about Downtown’s analog to the Cosmopolitan’s “hidden” pizzeria: a hidden casino:

By now, everyone’s heard about the Cosmopolitan’s secret pizzeria. There’s no sign, and it’s down a hallway decorated with LPs, but they do serve a tasty slice. Apparently, a lot of people have discovered something similar downtown—a “secret casino” with no hotel rooms, no entertainment, no restaurants, no loyalty program and no marketing offers.

via Open Secret | Vegas Seven.

I came up with the idea while I was interviewing people for the Loosening up Downtown story and noticed that, despite having significant barriers to entry, the Plaza’s casino was drawing players.

A very quotable newsletter

Just to give you an idea of what I’m working with, I wanted to post this letter from my Homeowners’ Association. It’s probably no better and no worse than most HOAs, but they went a little “nuts” with the “quotation marks” and capitalizing Common Nouns.

newsletter
newsletter

You’ve really got to click and read the whole thing–it would give an English teacher fits.

My favorite is the desperate plea not to “FEED THE PIDEGONS!”

I’ve teased out the hierarchy of importance:
1. Somewhat important: “in quotes”
2. More important: “In Quotes, Capitalized”
3. Extremely important: “IN QUOTES, ALL CAPS”

Now, I’m afraid that I’ve been “infected” by the “quotes bug” and I’ll keep on “doing” this “ALL DAY.”

Try it, it’s “fun.”

But all I can think about is this Chris Farley bit.

That reminds of the Plaza trial. David McKee mentioned the Tamares attorney ‘channeling the feelings of the downtown Plaza, keening that, “I can’t be known as the old Plaza, I can’t be the cheap Plaza, I can’t be the bad Plaza.”‘

That’s pretty funny, but it would have been better if they’d have just played that clip.

Which raises the question: if you were to anthropomorphize the major casinos of Las Vegas, who would play who? Go ahead, play the game: pick prominent actors/personalities who could represent the casinos. I haven’t a clue myself, but I’d love to hear what other people think.

New Frontier to New Plaza?

The long-rumored sale of the New Frontier to the Elad group has apparently gone through. Translation: the Frontier’s days are numbered, so if you want to ride the bull at Gilley’s, start making plans now. From the press release:

New York-based Elad Group, owner of the iconic Plaza Hotel, has purchased the last available prime parcel on the Las Vegas Strip where it will develop a $5 billion multi-use ultra-luxury hotel, private residence, retail and gaming complex bearing The Plaza brand, it was announced by Miki Naftali, Elad’s president.

The 34.5 acre site is currently occupied by The New Frontier & Casino which will be demolished to make way for the new Las Vegas Plaza.

“We are delighted to enter the Las Vegas market and introduce the highest level of luxury and sophistication as defined by The Plaza worldwide,” said Mr. Naftali. “Though planning is in the early stages, The Plaza in Las Vegas will introduce the classical elegance and grandeur of the storied New York landmark to The Strip. We look forward to being part of a community with some of the most prestigious, dynamic and visionary developments anywhere,” he said.

The site is directly across from the Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn’s newest development, the Anchor, and will build on the concept that unparalleled luxury and service represent the new standard rather than theme park attractions.

The Plaza in Las Vegas plans to feature a six-diamond hotel, private residences, the Plaza Retail Collection, a state-of-the-art casino, destination restaurants and spectacular convention space.

Demolition is slated to begin early next year. Construction is anticipated to take three years, with an official opening slated for 2011.

“There is only one original Plaza, and that will never change, but all that the brand stands for in terms of style, service and luxury will be intrinsic to the Plaza Las Vegas,” Mr. Naftali said. “We also look forward to bringing the Plaza brand to other destination cities in the near future, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C, Boston, London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and Shanghai,” he said.

$5 Billion Investment to Bring The Plaza to Las Vegas

Interesting note: Donald Trump used to own New York’s Plaza, and he’s got one (eventually two) condo towers with his name on them behind the site of the “Las Vegas” Plaza. Coincidence? Maybe.

To my understanding, the actual resort will cost $3.5 billion to build (the $5 billion figure includes the price of the land), which is about a billion more than Wynn Las Vegas, and only a billion or so less than Echelon Place, which will be about 2.5 times as big, at least as far as acreage goes. So this is either going to be a very, very opulent resort, or it just got a lot more expensive to build on the Strip. Construction crews will be at a premium over the next few years, with Echelon, Project City Center, Fontainbleau, the Tropicana rebuild, the M resort to the south, and a slew of condos in various stages of construction.

No word in the press release on how they’ll finesse the fact that there already is a Plaza Las Vegas. Maybe the new owners know something we don’t about the future of that downtown casino. If they’re forecasting a 2011 opening for the “new” Plaza, it’s worth saying that a lot can happen in three years, and the (current) Plaza’s fate is anything but certain given the various proposals to redevelop downtown.